Disclaimer: I want to give full gravity to how difficult, maybe impossible, the thought of forgiveness may feel. When deep-seated hurt is present, forgiving those who hurt you may be the last thing that you want to do. This article will address some strong realities about the dangers of living with unforgiveness as well as healing that can be found through forgiveness.
3 Myths about forgiveness:
Forgive and forget: For years, I have heard these words. I understand the sentiment, but this is not always easy. I agree that forgiveness can lead to healing and restoration. However, for many people, this concept feels very invalidating. Forgiveness does not negate what happened, and forgetting things that caused emotional pain is not realistic.
Forgiveness erases pain: Forgiveness is not always a once and done thing. It is a conscious choice that we make to stop allowing anger and bitterness to reign in our lives. It requires us to decide to stop feeding off of the hurt. Forgiveness does not heal the pain, especially the deep wounds.
Resentment has no purpose: Resentment is not healthy and can destroy relationships, but it does serve a purpose. It can give us a sense of control when we feel an extreme loss of control. Just to be clear, I am not recommending living with resentment, but I do understand if this is how you feel.
So, what is forgiveness?
I define forgiveness as a choice to let go of hatred, anger, and resentment. When we tell someone that we forgive them, we are saying “I am tired of carrying this burden and I no longer want to hold my pain against you.” We are not saying that things are all better or that we can just pick up where we left off. You may say, “I am willing to start the restoration process with you.” Sometimes a restoration of relationship would be unwise, especially when abuse-related trauma is involved. In any case, breaking the chains of resentment and bitterness can lead to personal healing and restoration.
What if I am not ready to forgive?
It is okay if you are not ready yet. Forgiveness is a very personal process and there is nothing easy about it. When people do hurtful things, we feel the pain. You may find yourself feeling cynical or jaded. You may find it hard to trust others. You allow yourself to become emotionally numb to avoid gut-wrenching agony. You put up walls and no longer allow people to really know you. Heck, you’re not even sure if you know you!
4 Steps to breaking the chains:
If you are ready to start the process of forgiveness, take heart! Nothing is easy about it, but emotional peace and personal restoration are attainable.
1. Recognize that you are in chains. If you don’t recognize that the resentment that you are experiencing is holding you back from the peace that could be yours, then this is the first step.
2. Address the pain. Past hurts may seem insurmountable, but the only way to slay the beast is to face it. If your beasts feel too big to face alone, I suggest that you seek out a local counselor in your area to join you in your battle.
3. Acknowledge that the past does not define your future. Forgiveness can be a daily decision. As you fully forgive, you will feel the weight on your shoulders begin easing. Keep going because you are running toward emotional restoration and freedom!
4. Give yourself a break. A little grace for self can go a long way. If you are not able to fully forgive right away, that is okay. It just means you are human. Take it one day at a time.
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